Why women do not vote for women

It would seem stating the obvious makes for news in Kenya. The prevalence of misogyny in a patriarchal and highly conservative society should surprise no one, certainly not journalists. PHOTO: COURTESY
A local newspaper announced with glee, 'Kenyan women would rather have men in any leadership position, survey says'.

It would seem stating the obvious makes for news in Kenya. The prevalence of misogyny in a patriarchal and highly conservative society should surprise no one, certainly not journalists.

Rather, the survey simply underscores what feminists and female politicians have long stated about the Kenyan electorate.

Unless, by law, gender inclusion and representation becomes institutionalised and part of the political structure, women will never gain gender equality or representation.

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If anything, the survey simply amplifies the very reasons as to why the two-thirds gender principle was put into the Constitution.

A conservative society like ours will always defer to men, seeing them as bearers of power. The entire electorate will vote on the “potential” of the man, versus the actual merit and resume of the woman.

Thus, the election campaign will be littered with litanies against, for example, Ms Anne Waiguru, Ms Martha Karua, Ms Millie Odhiambo or Madam Charity Ngilu based on their previous performances in leadership, versus the vague election promises of their male rivals.

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In fact, it is public knowledge that any woman who chooses to vie for an electoral seat versus a man will ultimately face the most disgusting and most personalised slander, from being called “flower girls” to the allusion of sexual impropriety with party or Government leaders.

The surprising outcome of the US elections underscores this. As much as we would like to pretend that the United States is a liberal society, the slow recovery from the 2008 economic meltdown and a global spread of fascist white supremacy, dressed as nationalism was tapped into by the Republican Party and used by Donald Trump’s campaign. Bigotry in America was finally at its most visible in the past one year.

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An outright disregard for the rights of ethnic, sexual and religious minorities complete with threats made directly to millions of minorities throughout Trump’s campaign, meant that it was clear Donald Trump was all about upholding the power and privileges’ of the white population.

This most certainly affected the first female presidential candidate. Bigotry is never limited; rather it will target even those considered part of the white elite, especially because Hillary Clinton is a woman.

The result was a theatre of the absurd. A woman with over 40 years of experience in politics and governance won the popular vote but still lost the election to a man who had no experience and no plan, just a four-word statement: “Make America Great Again”.

At least 66 per cent of white women voted for Donald Trump, a cutting betrayal that exposed the ideological failures of western feminism. White women, it seems, will protect their white privilege first and then consider their gender.

Unsurprisingly, Donald Trump was reported by the Wall Street Journal to be so unaware and unable to meet the demands of forming an administration that he has been consulting with President Barrack Obama.

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With the refusal of Kenya’s Senate and National Assembly to adopt the Gender Bill, Kenya’s Parliament is in constitutional crisis. Attorney General Githu Muigai remains unheeded by legislators, whose numbers currently lie at a 75 per cent majority male in the National Assembly and 73 per cent male in the Senate.

Repeatedly, we are told that ‘women should run against men on an equal playing field’.

The fallacious claim that “women should vote for women” ignores the social reality that misogyny is the driving force behind the disenfranchisement and disempowerment of women, often entrenched by women themselves.

As Hillary Clinton’s case shows, even when the female candidate ultimately represents their ethnicity, is undisputedly far more qualified than her rival and is the better and more honest leader, the vast majority of women in that ethnic community will vote for a man. To rectify this situation demands a radical and systematic legal inclusion of women, especially within the political sphere.

It is a tragedy the Gender Bill did not pass. It is a catastrophe that the undemocratic locking in of aspirants after nominations in political parties is now legal. If women aspirants did not have a level playing field before, they now face the most impossible odds, regardless of whichever political party they belong to.

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A completely ethnicised party that is entirely patriarchal will most certainly not give a chance to the vast majority of female aspirants, because due to prevalent cultural misogyny, they will lose the votes on the ground.

There is a battle ahead. If women leaders are to rise to power, they have to fight their own, prove themselves several times over and somehow maneuver past misogyny.

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